Thankful

I have an incomplete post in my drafts folder about how annoyed I can be by inspirational quotes. They can be trite, over simplify complex issues and even be used to justify all sorts of things that don’t really match up with the original intent. That being said, I’ve found this particular quote helpful this month.

Recently I lost someone important to me and it has had a profound impact on me. Those of you who have lost people close to you probably know that the “five stages of grief” don’t really come in stages but instead veer wildly back and forth, bouncing off of each other day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment. I am filled with so much regret, remorse, anger and bewilderment at how quickly he was snatched away and how much time we wasted that at times I can hardly bear it.

I didn’t realize it at the time (because that’s not how these things work- when it comes to depressive episodes hindsight is 20/20) but I was slipping into a place where it was hard to feel happy. It wasn’t really sadness, it was more numb than anything. I had moments where I’d have fun and I’d smile and laugh and those moments definitely weren’t fake but they were… superficial. It didn’t really go deep, didn’t touch my core. In the last few years I’ve found an inner joy and peace that permeates me, always. I’ve faced hardships, loss, conflict and plenty of bad days during that time but I always knew it would pass, that the things that truly mattered would prevail. After losing Bruno I couldn’t feel that anymore. No matter how many pep talks I gave myself, the inner peace I’d discovered was slipping away.

Then November rolled around. Each year since joining Facebook I’ve used the days leading up to Thanksgiving to post a daily “thankful status”. I almost skipped it this year because after doing it a few times it begins to be repetitive but, for some reason, I decided to go ahead and try. I always try to dig a little deeper and find little things for which to be grateful along with the biggies and to really give an explanation for why each one is important to me personally and how it enriches my life. The first couple of days I didn’t notice a change. I was digging deep, I was being honest and heartfelt in my posts, but it still wasn’t reaching my core. However, three days in, something shifted.

November 3 was Bruno’s birthday and I almost skipped doing the thankful status. It somehow felt disrespectful to him to talk about being grateful for things he no longer had. It also felt as if being happy about something would mean that I wasn’t allowed to be sad anymore, that I’d have to let go of all of my grief and that felt like saying his death was unimportant. I really had to dig deep that day to figure out what I was going to say, if anything at all. As it worked out I was able to go meet the newest, tiny member of our family that day. Instead of simply stating that I was thankful to meet him, that he was here and healthy, that I’m thankful for his mama and daddy and sisters, I decided to dig a little deeper. I needed to find a way to express what I was really feeling. I posted this:

My first thought, when deciding what to post today for my thankful status, was that I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to talk about being thankful on the day Bruno should have turned 35 but didn’t. I really just wanted to wallow in the time we’ll miss as well as the time we already missed because we let our own busy lives keep us from being there as often as we could have. But instead of wallowing I chose to spend time with those I can. It turned out to be the perfect day to meet the newest G, whose name is partially a tribute to his uncle. I can only hope that Bruno knew how much I loved him, even though we were far away and busy. Every day I wonder if he knew. But for T.G. and his family, including this beautiful boy, I can do more than hope and wonder, I can make sure. And for that opportunity, I am thankful.

With that post I realized the depth of my sadness, that without realizing it I’d been slipping into a fog. I realized it because for the first time in weeks I felt something in my core. It was small, just a tiny sliver of the emotions I’d been holding back since the funeral but it was there. It was real. It was deep. And each and every day, as I search for what I’ll share in that thankful status it opens up a bit more. As I write this, even more. I feel my old peace settling in next to my grief. It doesn’t make it disappear but instead brings it to the surface where I can feel it instead of numbing myself to it.

Making an effort to feel truly, deeply thankful these past few weeks has enabled me to feel everything truly and deeply again. So, for me at least, this trite little quote turned out to be spot on.

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